Devotion Unmarked: The Reinterpretation of the Four Life-Stages in the Vṛṣasārasaṃgraha
Panel:22 | Marks of Devotion: The Construction and Politics of Religious Identity Through External Signs
Timeslot:07/28 | 17:50-18:10 UTC+2/CEST
The Vṛṣasārasaṃgraha (7-9th centuries), a hitherto unedited lay Śaiva (but partly also Vaiṣṇava and Dharmaśāstra-type) text transmitted in the so-called Śivadharma-corpus, makes an attempt to wholly internalise the four life-stages (āśrama) of orthodox Brahmanism, and at the same time to strip them of any outer signs. At various loci, it gives lists of orthodox ‘marks of devotion’ (such as clothes, the sacred thread, girdles, ash-marks, seats, rosaries, water-jars, etc.) now reinterpreted as internalised qualities (such as the meaning of sacred texts, the three guṇas, compassion, truthfulness, etc.). I propose to investigate the motifs behind this process and behind the total and conspicuous absence of any other mention of ‘marks of devotion’ in the Vṛṣasārasaṃgraha. Was the redactors' main purpose to level out the text’s various sectarian affiliations by wiping out any concrete teachings on visible marks? Is this a reflection of contemporary communities with mixed identities? Is this also a critique of the orthodox āśramas?